Russia's economic adjustment to the fall of communism has been notoriously troubled. The output recovery since 1998 is widely judged to be fragile. What is less often noted is that Russia is far from unique in its 'transition' troubles. In this paper the main hypotheses put forward to account for Russia's transition difficulties are reviewed in the context of economic change in all ex-communist countries. Accounts relying on (unexplained) mistakes in economic policy are inadequate. Two accounts may be sustainable in the light of evidence from other ex-communist countries: one based on inherited economic structure and one based on cultural factors. The latter hypothesis is shown to be susceptible to testing.